Saturday 30 July 2011

Today ...
I watched this stunning documentary about The Art of Cornwall.
Was surprised, walking through Chinatown, to see that the birthplace of John Dryden is now a Chinese supermarket. Never noticed that before.
Wondered if I'd like Bubble Tea.
Which I've never heard of before.
But went for coffee and flapjack instead. I wasn't feeling adventurous.
Certainly not adventurous enough to fancy tea with chewy tapioca balls. (I haven't had tapioca since I was at school.)
But there were lots of people in the shop.
So maybe it's a sign of middleage not to be tempted?

Saturday 23 July 2011

'Nothing in common, oh no! nothing except a drinking shell and a fire and the boat we built together. He used my vest for a fishing net, and I used his braces when my knicker elastic gave. It doesn't seem awfully odd to me to ask a man to stay when he's caught a fish in your vest.'
From Miss Ranskill Comes Home.

As every lady knows, you should never go out in decrepit knickers in case you get shipwrecked.
Miss Ranskill, I'm pleased to say, was wearing two pairs of sensible ones when she toppled overboard, reaching for her hat.
I think I'm going to enjoy this one ...
I wonder if I should start wearing vests? Just in case?

Thursday 21 July 2011

I've never been pursued through a library before.
But when the other woman caught up with me, she said that my armful of grey books had caught her eye. (There were rich pickings this afternoon in a library that I don't visit all that often.)
So we had a pleasant chat about Persephones.
And she said she hadn't read any of the titles that I'd chosen but had lots more at home.
(Luckily, she said she didn't feel in the mood for the ones that I'd chosen.
Because I was being a bit greedy.)
So I recommended The Fortnight in September. Which was still on the shelf.
And tonight I turned on my central heating and buried myself in The Home-Maker.
Dinner was slightly over-cooked because I lost track of the time.
And now it's midnight. And I still haven't done the dishes.

Monday 18 July 2011

I don't often write negative reviews, not out of kindness but if I haven't enjoyed a book I'm usually too bored to be bothered writing about it.
But this was so bad that I finished it simply to see how much worse it could get.
If I were teaching a creative writing course, I'd use it as a textbook.
Of everything that a first-time novelist could do wrong.
How on earth did it get on last year's Orange Prize longlist?

Saturday 16 July 2011

There was chocolate cake here.
Maple syrup and parsnip cake (come on, you've got to try everything once) wasn't as good as it sounded and next time I'll stick to my favourite lemony polenta.
The courgette and lime cake in the garden here was memorably good.
Although pistachio and lemon cake at La Fromagerie is unarguably the best cake in town.
And you can't say that I haven't taken a wide sample.
Do you think I could take this up professionally?
Or offer conducted tours around
The calories of London?

Friday 15 July 2011

On my way home tonight, I stopped off at the National Portrait Gallery to see this fascinating exhibition of ballet photographs by Bassano.
There were dancers I recognised... Tamara Karsavina, Lydia Lopokova, Adeline Genée,
And this is Anna Pavlova, looking so elegant - but aren't her feet enormous!
And there was Ninette de Valois, looking very perky in froufrou frills in 1920. I saw her once receiving a standing ovation at the Royal Opera House when she looked very grand and dignified and not at all froufrou.
But I was most attracted by the dancers I'd never of heard of at all.
Like Phyllis Bedells, in her costume as an Ice Cream Girl, who made her debut as the first oyster in Alice in Wonderland.
And beautiful Maud Allan whose career was ruined when it emerged that her brother was a murderer. (No phone-tapping allegations, though.)
There was baby ballerina Elise Craven who curled her hair in ringlets and made her debut, aged 10, in something called Pinkie and the Fairies.
And one of my favourites, Hilda Boot from Nottingham who became Hilda Butsova (but still didn't get her teeth fixed.)
Wonderful photographs and you can see every detail of lace and fripperies. And I do love exhibitions that are exactly the right size for a drop-in visit.

Thursday 14 July 2011

Much as I'd love to make a Grand Tour of every exhibition that catches my eye, somehow it never seems to happen.
So having missed the Robin and Lucienne Day exhibition at Pallant House - I've never been to Pallant House and one day I really must - imagine how pleased I was to discover that now it's on here.
(And it's free to get in.)
Unfortunately, there isn't a shop.
Because I'd love to have a Lucienne Day tea-towel, far too good to wipe dishes with, of course.
I wonder what they cost originally.
And how much they'd fetch now.
Anybody else think that Orla Kiely owes a big debt to Lucienne's designs?

Wednesday 13 July 2011

When this grave caught my eye in Highgate cemetery the other day, it made me laugh - and I discovered that it belongs to the late artist Patrick Caulfield.
And witty.
And very striking amongst so many tearful angels.
It has only just struck me that it's also a pun on the Victorians' stairway to heaven imagery pointed out by our guide.

Monday 11 July 2011

You can keep the Costa Brava, I'm telling you mate, I'd rather have a day down Margate with all me family.

I don't think I've ever been to Margate before and, despite warnings from neighbours who said I must be mad, I set off on the train a few days ago to see the new Turner Contemporary gallery.
Turner used to travel down by paddle-steamer from London, which sounds much more fun, to stay with the seaside landlady who kept a warm bed for him. He enjoyed Margate's brash vulgarity, its pubs and eel-and-pie shops, as well as its sunsets.
I knew it was run-down but I still wasn't prepared for the depressed unloveliness of Margate today, for the derelict high-rise that welcomes as you come out of the station, for a town that can't even be bothered to put up a signpost to its new £17m gallery.
The opening exhibition is very sparse and minimal - and at first I wished that they'd opened with more of a fanfare. But once I'd shaken off the blighted amusement arcades and local youth discussing the latest knifing (overheard along the dreary promenade), I found myself smitten by the lovely light and space of the gallery. And although Margate needs an awful lot of regeneration, there were signs ... an old bank turned into a 5* charity bookshop, some shops worth mooching around in the old town. I hope it works for them because some people are clearly trying very hard to put the soul back into a town that seemed to be dying of shame.
You wouldn't think it was only 10 minutes on the train from lovely, cheerful Broadstairs with its rock shops and Punch and Judy. Where I enjoyed a knickerbocker glory in an ice-cream parlour with a fountain that looked as if it should have been trickling with pink lemonade or champagne.

Sunday 10 July 2011

Scene: Highgate cemetery, yesterday afternoon.
A young woman with spectacular magenta hair is taking a stroll with her aunt.
Young woman: 'Would you be shocked if I said I'd never heard of Karl Marx ...?'
Aunt: 'Splutter **!!@&$"
Young woman: 'I told my boyfriend I'd never heard of him and he was really shocked, too. And then I phoned my brother, and he couldn't stop laughing ...'
Aunt: 'I am also very shocked.'
Young woman: 'But now I can tell them that I've seen his grave ...' Pause. 'Who was George Eliot?'
Aunt decides it is time to walk up to the village for tea and cake ...
She is still speechless but, even if you haven't heard of the deceased, you can't help but be impressed by acres of ivy-clad angels. And a faithful pet lion.
I've been meaning to revisit the cemetery - it's years since I was last there- ever since I read Audrey Niffenegger's spectacularly silly book which is attracting hordes of new visitors. She wasn't there yesterday - she is still an occasional tour guide - but she has taken some very good photographs.
I also like this tour with Diana Athill although it was obviously made on a dreary, autumnal day; yesterday the cemetery was full of birdsong and wild geraniums.

Friday 1 July 2011

For some reason, this picture kept falling off the end of my Festival of Britain post.
So here's a post for Kristina - because I thought of her as soon as I saw this Patchwork of the Century in the festival museum.
The Women of the Century exhibition was held in Twickenham in June, 1951.
This patchwork was made by 80 women, without any needlework experience, in only two months.
And I bet in 1951, Kristina would have been one of them. (Not me. Or it still wouldn't be finished.)
There's a square for the NHS and free dentures in 1948. (My granny used to say it was the best thing she ever did, getting rid of her teeth.)
There was blackout Britain in 1939 and a clever design of a swastika, an umbrella and a briefcase for the Munich Agreement of 1938.
There was a couple dancing the Charleston for 1925 and a precursor of the modern baby's pram for 1902. The square for 1926 showed an armoured car convoying a food lorry during the General Strike, which seemed very apt given yesterday's strikes.
In Austerity Britain, no new materials were bought for the patchwork. Instead, they used old tablecloths, airforce uniforms and blackout fabric left over from the war.
When I was on the South Bank yesterday, I wandered into the Museum of 1951, part of the Festival of Britain celebrations and coveted this wallpaper, but wondered how quickly I'd get tired of it?
There was hardly anybody there ... well, if you didn't know it was there, you'd never find it.
But there's some wonderful black-and-white documentaries from the original Festival, including a delightful one scripted by Laurie Lee.
It made me realise what a huge thing it must have been, to see London blazing with light, and fountains playing, and for couples to be dancing outside by the river. And although, of course, I knew about the Festival of Britain, I'd never really thought about it happening right here ... where I so often stroll along, looking at the river, on my way to the Tate, or the Hayward, or the National Theatre.
I love those old films and the posh, enthusiastic voiceovers (even if it niggles a bit that everybody who isn't posh is a cor-blimey-luvaduck stereotype.)
When Laurie Lee's little boy won one of the free Festival tickets that were released in balloons, I wondered if it was in the back of Roald Dahl's mind when he came up with the idea of golden tickets to Willie Wonka's chocolate factory?